Inevitably, every Wyoming resident faces the painful experience of shopping for fruits and vegetables during a winter. The almost comical signs reading “Fresh Produce” taunt us over a box full of fruits and vegetables that can look to be at least a month old, sometimes even battered and unappetizing.
With bitterly cold winters and incredibly short summers, Wyoming is as far from a produce producing state as they come. Most residents have accepted the harsh reality that our state essentially gets the fruits and vegetables that have been trucked in from far away places. Glenrock resident Ryan Good decided that accepting that fate simply was not good enough. He began to formulate a strategic plan to solve Converse County’s fresh produce problem.
Close to a year ago, soon after Good took note of the fruit and veggie issue, oil prices began to fall dramatically.
“Oil companies were going bankrupt left and right,” Ryan said. He observed that if Wyoming was going to stay afl oat it needed to diversify into something that could both help its locals as well as provide state exports.
It seemed to Ryan that a hydroponic garden was the solution. If designed correctly, a hydroponic garden could provide fresh produce that is locally sourced, not trucked in from some distant locale. So he started New World Eco Systems about six miles west of Glenrock on US 20/26.
Good quickly determined that he was in desperate need of someone who could put his plan into action. Enter Scott Gilbert, a skilled builder, who seemed to possess exactly the right talents. Ryan and Scott began the process of building a hydroponic garden.
Storage containers seemed to be an obvious choice to use as a shell for the garden, Scott explains. They are built airtight and are readily available at a fairly cheap price. The ease with which the containers can be locked and stacked also made them appealing to the two entrepreneurs.
After a long hard year of planning and building, the storage container garden became a reality.
The pods are insulated on the outside to help control the inside temperatures. The container can be customized to fi t the individual needs of the consumer. The garden can essentially be as fancy or as simple as the gardener desires.
Trays full of many varieties of plants line the walls. LED lights hang above the trays of plants, giving each the exact amount of artificial sunlight needed to grow. In the bottom of the trays, water
is circulated, containing a cocktail of nutrients that nourishes the plants. This water system eliminates the need for dirt or soil.
At the front of the structure, a cooling and heating system is installed to regulate the temperature of the room. Another computerized system is also installed at the front of the room. This compact computer can communicate with the gardeners’ phones through an app. The computer allows the gardener to adjust/check the temperature of the room, as well as monitor other important
information regarding the plants.
Not only is the New World Eco System process effective, it is also highly effi cient. Plants use less water than crops in an irrigated field. Also, the water is circulated around and used more than once on the plants. This makes water use close to zero. Electricity use is also minimal, and very affordable.
Many plants can also be grown in the tiny 20-foot container, making them space effi cient. For some, one container can produce 12 times as much as one acre of land.
He believes the gardens could easily produce enough to provide enough income to support a family. And if this new system could be incorporated into schools, Ryan believes it could have an impact on education.
Ag kids could handle the planting. Students interested in robotics could possibly robots to harvest food and business majors could handle the marketing of the gardens.
The students could grow their own food for themselves and other students, as well as supplement the school’s income, not to mention the value of the experience they would be receiving, Scott adds.
He imagines a little town in Wyoming being able to grow and sell fresh produce to locals, and possibly even exporting to other places. It could be a huge cash flow for local families.
Ryan quickly realized at this point in production that he would need a salesperson to help manage the marketing and sales department.
And that’s when Jake Hogan with Green Life Ag Solutions joined the team. He imagines Third World countries being able to grow their own produce, right in their backyard.
When you look at the bigger picture, the new hydroponic garden system that Ryan, Scott and Jake have put tougher could put Converse County on the map.
The market for the food is already established. Everyone wants fresher produce, especially local restaurants. As Ryan put it, “The people who don’t eat are the dead ones.”